The Searchers (1956)

on March 13, 1956 by BOXOFFICE Staff
Since propinquity asserts considerable influence on critics' and ticket-buyers' evaluations of films, sizable segments of both groups will hail this initial venture by C.V. Whitney Pictures as the best western ever made. True, ever since "The Covered Wagon" that superlative designation has been periodically applied to outstanding sagebrush sagas -- "Red River" and "Shane," for example; but even if memories of those mastodon milestones of the great open spaces have not been dimmed by time's passage, this superb action drama cannot escape winning a prominent niche in their exalted company. Moreover, unless showmen fortunate enough to book it are negligent in taking advantage of its virtually limitless opportunities for house-packing merchandising, the offering should accrue the same record-shattering grosses that were garnered by its illustrious predecessors.
   Equal praise is due the story, production, direction, acting and photography. Penned by S. Nugent from a novel by Alan LeMay, the plot is replete in suspense, excitement and spectacle, while physical appurtenances were unstintingly supplied by Merian C. Cooper, who produced with Patrick Ford, son of director John Ford, as his associate. The rugged beauties of Monument Valley, chosen as the location site, were admirably photographed in screen-filling VistaVision and Technicolor, while piloting by the aforementioned John Ford is arrestingly expert.

A goodly proportion of observers will opine that the top-lining performance by John Wayne is the unquestioned best of his long and impressive career. He makes the most of a custom-tailored role, that of a Texan veteran of the Civil War. Returning to his home, he sets out on a relentless pursuit when Comanches murder his brother and sister-in-law and their young son, and abduct their two daughters. The grim trail finally leads to the rescue of one of the girls, the other having been slain by the indians.

Here is adventure-crammed western drama at its all-time best... A grim and tensely exciting story of an unrelenting pursuit... The beauties of the southwest caught in flaming Technicolor. Warner Bros. 115 min.

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  • FilmNoirFugitive on 07 August 2014

    Lana Wood, who played a young Debbie Edwards in The Searchers, is scheduled to appear at the 2014 Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, Sept. 18-20, in Hunt Valley, Md., at the Hunt Valley Wyndham Hotel. Also scheduled to appear are Piper Laurie, Veronica Cartwright, Angela Cartwright, Lee Meredith, George Lazenby, and more. More information is at

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